Asus Eee Keyboard review: first look at CeBIT

3 Mar 2010

The much-anticipated Eee Keyboard – a PC, as you may have guessed, in a keyboard – will finally be shipping next month, according to Asus chairman Jonney Shih. He was contrite about the delays in a press conference here in Hannover: “We have to apologise a little bit… we’ll try to perfect it. We promise it won’t be further delayed – we think April time frame we’ll have mass production”

Despite not being fully finished, two demonstration units are running on Asus’ stand. We spent a while playing, in the company of a slightly nervous-looking Asus rep.

The guts of the machine come as no surprise, and include 11n wireless and the now-standard netbook-style spec list of an Atom N270 processor, 1GB RAM and a 16 or 32GB SSD. At the back there are three USB2 ports, HDMI and VGA video outputs plus Ethernet and audio.

The most interesting part is the touchscreen built into the right-hand side of the unit. It has all sorts of clever little apps.

When you’re not using it to navigate menus, the touchscreen becomes a nice big touchpad to control the mouse on the main display.

There’s a proprietary wireless video transmitter to go with the Eee Keyboard, and although it’s technically an option Asus expects most units to be sold with one. There’s enough bandwidth to show HD video at 720P, and it was working flawlessly on the display stand with the receiver unit a few feet away. Unfortunately Asus was a bit skittish about us wandering off with one of the only two working samples in the universe, so we weren’t allowed to move the Eee Keyboard away from the receiver to see what the range was like.

So, assuming you want a PC in a keyboard - personally I don’t but I can see there might be some who do - the issue with the Eee Keyboard is the price. Asus tells us that it will launch at 550 euros including the video transceiver, which given the exchange rate will probably translate into something around £550.

It’s an awful lot to pay for a low-powered computer running Windows XP, and we’re yet to be convinced that the software running the secondary screen is solid enough not to act up at inconvenient moments.

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